New Brunswick·CBC Investigates

New Brunswick inmate death investigation transferred out of province

The criminal investigation into the 2015 death of Matthew Hines at Dorchester Penitentiary has been transferred to RCMP in Nova Scotia.

Matthew Hines was beaten and repeatedly pepper sprayed by guards at Dorchester Penitentiary before his death

Matthew Hines died in custody of the Dorchester Penitentiary on May 27, 2015. (CBC)

The criminal investigation into the 2015 death of an inmate at New Brunswick's Dorchester Penitentiary has been transferred to the Nova Scotia RCMP.

The details of 33-year-old Matthew Hines's death were secret until CBC News reported how the Cape Breton man was beaten and repeatedly pepper sprayed by guards after he refused to return to his cell.

Less than two hours after the struggle with guards began, Hines was pronounced dead in a Moncton hospital.

A Nova Scotia RCMP spokeswoman confirmed the investigation into Hines's death has been transferred to that province's major crime unit.

But she wouldn't say why New Brunswick RCMP are no longer handling the investigation.

"We're unable to comment further as the investigation is ongoing," Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said.

She referred questions about the transfer to New Brunswick RCMP.

A spokesman in New Brunswick then referred questions back to Nova Scotia RCMP.

New Brunswick Const. Hans Ouellette said it's not uncommon for another police agency to "review each other's files."

Julie Kirkpatrick, a lawyer representing Hines's family, said police called on Monday to tell them the case is "now a major investigation and that significant full-time resources have been committed."

"[The family is] pleased to hear that resources are being committed to the re-investigation, and that we're told it will happen as thoroughly and as quickly as possible," said Kirkpatrick.

"And they are choosing at this point to believe that."

Family devastated by 'misinformation'

Julie Kirkpatrick says her clients have endured "unspeakable pain" since losing Matthew Hines 17 months ago. (CBC)
In August, New Brunswick RCMP said the investigation into Hines's death was complete and "foul play was ruled out."

A month later, police said the case was being re-examined after "additional information" came to light.

The entire file was transferred to Nova Scotia RCMP's major crime unit last week.

The confusion surrounding the case has taken its toll on Hines's elderly parents, Kirkpatrick said.

Family members have asked RCMP investigators if they can provide sworn statements about the "misinformation" they've received in the 17 months since Hines's death.

"It's been devastating for my clients," Kirkpatrick said.

"They were told one thing at the outset about the circumstances that surrounded Matthew's death and the circumstances in which he died. That information has changed, as you know."

'Unspeakable pain'

Matthew Hines, a 33-year-old inmate at a New Brunswick prison, died last year. His family says they were told he suffered a seizure. But now, an investigation raises serious questions about what happened in the final hours of his life. 2:36
The family didn't know what happened to Hines in his final hours until more than a year after he took his final breath.

That's when they received a copy of a Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) board of investigation report about his death.

That report revealed how Hines went from socializing with other inmates to fighting for his life on a prison shower floor, all in less than two hours.

It determined that guards had out-of-date use of force training and used "excessive force" on Hines.

Despite being "sufficiently under control of staff," Hines was pepper-sprayed four times in the face by one guard, with only seconds between each burst.

It also revealed that a nurse on duty at the prison failed to "provide Hines with the required medical assessment and treatment," even though he was in medical distress.

CSC has fired one staff member and disciplined three others as a result of those findings.

A post-mortem report determined Hines likely died from lack of oxygen caused by pepper spray.

But Hines's family doesn't know this for sure. They're still awaiting the findings of a final report from New Brunswick's coroner.

As they continue to wait for answers, Kirkpatrick said the family is enduring "unspeakable pain."

"It took far too long for that truth to see the light of day, frankly, and Matthew's parents are not young," she said.

"[Hines's parents] and the rest of the family, they need the full truth of what happened to Matthew and they need to know what happened after his death, too."

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